During the Tunisian revolution in January 2011, my husband and I finally decided on a name for our second daughter, who was to be born that summer. We named her Amel, which means “hope” in Arabic, as hope is necessary for any revolution to succeed.
The American Worker in Transnational Circulation • Experience and Information • The Discovery of Class Composition • No Investigation, No Right to Speak • Inquiry Today • Future Directions for Theory and Inquiry • Letters from Readers
The Viewpoint website has been redesigned, thanks to the excellent work of Peter Rood, and the illustrations of Steven Zambrano Cascante. Our third issue, on the theme “Workers’ Inquiry,” is just around the corner. Until then, here’s a small taste of what’s to come.
These two letters represent a continuation of the correspondence between Cornelius Castoriadis and Anton Pannekoek, translated in our first issue with a historical introduction.
On the sixteenth of April, 1984 the final demonstration of the Diretas Já campaign brought one and a half million Brazilians into the streets of São Paulo. The phrase “I want to vote for president” could be read on the protesters’ yellow t-shirts and posters. To understand the recent wave of demonstrations in Brazil, we will have to begin with the history of this reformist movement, animated by the protesters’ belief that their country had been degraded by the greed and incompetence of the politicians—a constant theme in the efforts to make our institutions more responsive to the “real Brazil.”
As I started writing from Tarlabasi, Istanbul, the police were fortifying Taksim Square to prevent peaceful protesters from entering. They were there to protest the release of the policeman who murdered one of our comrades in Ankara, Ethem Sarisuluk. He was shot in the head, and a video has been released clearly revealing the murder. Despite abundant evidence and witnesses to the contrary, courts released him on the basis of “self-defense” and will continue his trial without detention. With this decision, the partiality of the legal system in favor of the brutal police forces became obvious once again.
We can start by saying that what characterizes these protests is that they represent exactly nothing, while, for a longer or shorter time, they express and constitute everything. They have an untimely dynamic, fleeing from any model of political organization (not only the old political parties and unions, but also from the third sector, NGOs) and affirming a radical democracy articulated between networks and the streets: self-convoking and debating in social networks, massive participation in street protests, capacity and determination to confront repression, and even the capacity to construct and self-manage urban spaces, such as what happened in Tahrir Square, the Spanish encampments, the Occupy Wall Street attempts, and, finally, Taksim Square in Istanbul.
In his programmatic piece in Jacobin, Bhaskar Sunkara describes the shape of contemporary Left Unity: “the convergence of American socialists committed to non-sectarian organization under the auspices of an overarching democratic structure.” It would be glib to just dismiss this out of hand – alongside increased exposure of the Left in the mainstream media, such a structure could be a good sign. But the way this strategy is being pursued leaves many fundamental questions unanswered.
What do Ira Glass and Jean-Marie Le Pen have in common? To follow the argument of Jared Ball’s recent book I Mix What I Like, they both represent a counter-insurgency against colonized populations. The allegedly progressive NPR, writes Ball, is the contemporary equivalent of Radio-Alger, operated by the colonial French government in Algeria. From post-war Algeria to the ghettos of the United States, colonial power requires propaganda in order to function.
The $8.25 man, Bloomberg News wrote in December, has worked at McDonald’s for twenty years. Still, he can’t get forty hours a week or anything more than minimum wage. He can’t make rent payments, can’t afford a computer, and has to go to the Apple store to update his Facebook. After picking cigarette butts out of a bathroom drain, he has to clean off before his next job—at another McDonald’s.